Monday, November 28, 2011

Hamlet's Blackberry

Published:  2011 by Harper Perennial
Source:  Received from the publisher for review

  There are days when I pine for a smartphone.  The ability to be able to check my e-mail, Facebook and Twitter accounts wherever and whenever I wanted to seems like a good thing to me.  The fact that I check them several times during the day anyways on my computer and very little happens between each check  and that I rarely have my current "dumb" phone on and yet still rarely miss calls should be a sign that maybe that new shiny gadget isn't a priority in my life. 
  Reading Hamlet's BlackBerry has reinforced this justification to stay behind that trend-following curve, at least for a while longer.  William Powers is far from a technophobe and I think that is what makes this book so interesting and useful.  Not only does he take examples from his own life on his experiences in occasional "unplugging" (disconnecting from the Internet for entire weekends, for example), he also goes back into history and profiles the contemporary "technology" of seven great thinkers from Plato to Walden to Marshall McLuhan that provide lessons for us in the current era.  I especially appreciated his thoughts on Seneca, who encourages us not to allow outside distractions to disturb one's focus on the task at hand:
I force my mind to become self-absorbed and not let outside things distract it.  There can be absolute bedlam without so long as there is no commotion within.
For me, that means ignoring the e-mail and social media when I am in the midst of any work or personal project; and to give proper attention to the book I am reading now rather than think of the (many, many) other books sitting on my shelf that I want to read.  Right now that is still easier said than done -- old habits die hard -- but I am aware of these tendencies in myself and when I have made the effort to focus on the task at hand it is not as difficult to complete. 

Ultimately, technology is a great tool but should be used in conjunction with the other ones that civilization has given us over the centuries.

Highly recommended.


  1. I also feel that it's sometimes good to go unplugged for a little while, and often after I have finished blogging and writing, will close the computer down for the day, and not open it until the following morning. I know not a lot of people do this, but if I ever want to get anything read, I have to! Great review on this one!

  2. While I found this book very interesting, and the ideas very true, I have found myself unwilling to use his good advice, and I am still flipping from one thing to the next, never concentrating on one thing at a time.

    It's sad!

  3. I really enjoyed Hamlets Blackberry, too. In fact, just included it in my Top 3 books of the year post. I've been looking for some other book bloggers to follow and I see I've found one here!


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